April 20, 2018 / 10:11 AM / 3 months ago

Boat carrying 76 Rohingya lands in Indonesia

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (Reuters) - A boat carrying 76 Rohingya Muslims landed in northwest Indonesia on Friday, the latest in what rights groups expect will be a wave of dangerous sea crossings by members of the persecuted minority from Myanmar.

The group, which included eight children and 25 women, suffered from varying degrees of fatigue and dehydration, authorities said.

“They docked at our port voluntarily and we have notified immigration and police about it,” said Muzakkar A. Gani, deputy regent of Bireuen, a district on the northeast coast of Sumatra island where the boat arrived.

Rights groups said last week that a boat carrying 70 Rohingya had left Myanmar for Malaysia, but it was not immediately clear if it was the same vessel that landed on Friday.

This month, Indonesian fishermen rescued at least five Rohingya off Sumatra and media reported that five had died at sea.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya fled from Myanmar by sea following an outbreak of violence in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2012.

That exodus peaked in 2015, when an estimated 25,000 people fled across the Andaman Sea for Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, many drowning in unsafe and overloaded boats.

Last year, according to rights groups and the United Nations, some 700,000 Rohingya fled from their homes in Myanmar to Bangladesh after Rohingya militant attacks in August sparked a military crackdown that the U.N. and Western nations have called ethnic cleansing.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar rejects the accusation, saying its forces have been waging a legitimate campaign against “terrorists” who attacked government forces.

Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, usually accepts asylum-seekers arriving by boat but they have limited rights and many end up spending years in camps and detention centers.

Reporting by Reuters stringer in BANDA ACEH; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Darren Shuettler

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